Two nights ago, I had a very therapeutic – very hot – yoga class. I felt very strong and I felt as though I were taking care of my body. It was the healthiest kind of buzz.
After class, a woman in the changeroom marched up to me and asked me what was wrong with my leg. I said, ‘I have a physical disability,’ and she misheard me. She thought I said ‘injury’ and then I clarified: ‘disability.’ She told me she’d been injured and healed herself by using acupuncture and massage. She offered me the name of her Chinese doctor and said that I would get better with massage and acupuncture. I thanked her and said, ‘My disability isn’t something that can be overcome.’
I understood why she said what she said and why she offered what she did. She was trying to be supportive and understanding. I did the same thing in late 2008 at an airport; I saw a young man who looked as though he had cerebral palsy; I approached his family and told them about the process of neuro-rehabilitation. They shut me down. That experience taught me that it was not socially acceptable to present a stranger with a solution to a problem based on my own experience or to try to give someone help he has not asked for. Now, when I see someone who has a disability, I don’t run up to that person and evangelize my own physical practice. I will talk about the healing benefits of yoga and the possibility of change through athletic therapy if it comes up in conversation, but not in a way that presents strangers with help.
I have used massage, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine as methods of therapy through my entire process. I still use them and I will for as long as I can afford to. What hit me the hardest about the experience is that I was deeply hurt that someone asked me about my disability. I hadn’t been asked in many, many months; I was shocked at how much it still hurt to be asked, especially since I’d just had a yoga class that made me feel strong and healthy.
This doesn’t mean I haven’t worked hard and I haven’t made progress, because I have. I did more than a hundred and fifty yoga classes in less than one year. I have certainly made progress. I just have to remind myself of that progress when I have these sorts of experiences. I won’t lie: it still makes me sad.